September Seed Saving

I’ve not been doing much on my Smallest Smallholding lately. Bit of grass cutting, tidying, tiny bit of weeding and raking up fallen plums and apples.

But one job I have been keen to do regularly is collect seeds. I can’t remember if I’d posted about this before (and I could just stop being incredibly lazy and check, but I won’t), but because I’ve found it difficult to keep on top of the weeding and general upkeep of the flower borders, I’ve come to a decision. Instead of lots of different small-ish plants (and inevitably big gaping holes in the planting scheme where I’ve pulled out weeds), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll be just chosing a few plants and filling the borders chock-full with them. I’ve also been thinking about designing my own seed packets and possibly giving them out to friends and family as part of their Christmas (shh! it’ an illegal word until December 1st) presents. Maybe.

I already have lavendar dotted around which always does well, provided I trim it regularly. The buddleia stays, because it’s so popular with bees and butterflies. The roses have sentimental value, and the clematis, orange blossom, scabious and paul’s himalayan musk climbing rose get to stay just because I say so.

So what else grows well here? Our soil is quite sandy and generally poor, which means the weeds grow like the clappers. However, for that self-same reason, wildflowers grow well too. Cornflowers, poppies and foxgloves thrive here. OK – so that’s a starting point. I’ve been collecting all the opium poppy seeds I can, and am waiting a little while until I can clear out this years’ annuals. Then when there’s more space I’ll sow the seeds liberally.  I’m going to leave the foxgloves to do their thing – I’m a bit hesitant about handling them as I’ve read allsorts (mostly about just how poisonous they are) and don’t really know how to separate fact from fiction.

I’ll take a trip to the garden centre soon and buy some cornflowers and more wild flower mixes to try and fill in the gaps. I’ve also been collecting the hollyhock seeds in earnest, which never fail to disappoint year on year (and the bees adore them, which is great). But what else?

Well, I love Honesty. It has the same appeal as poppies – it looks good when it flowers, it looks good when it finishes and the seed heads are so pretty. I leave ‘finished’ poppies and Honesty in the borders well into October, and sometimes beyond. So for that reason, I’ve also been collecting Honesty seeds to disperse more around the borders. I actually enjoy separating the fragile thin tissue-paper-like pods with my thumb and finger. The outer sheaths of the flat pods look drab and almost mouldy, but once you’ve carefully peeled them away to access the seeds, you’re left with almost opalescent shell-like discs that have an amazing fragile and sculptural quality. The seed heads look every bit as appealing as the vivid purple flowers.

So poppies, honesty and foxgloves. Those will be my staples for next year. I’ll also be growing Cosmos, something that is becoming a bit of an annual ritual.We let a thistle grow and the flowers proved one of the most attractive wildlife offerings in the Smallest Smallholding. I think every garden should have at least one thistle growing.

Next year I’ll be planning on not worrying about what the borders do. Let them grow and overspill, flower and seed themselves. Then I’ll be there again, come late summer and early autumn, with my empty envelopes, ready to collect all my seeds again.


  1. allotment blogger says

    Do you have a seedy sunday near you? If so you can swap some of your excess seeds for plants that you don’t have. We got heritage beetroot, organic runner beans, red salad chicory and nasturtiums at our Seedy Sunday at Brighton in February.

  2. Hi I enjoy collecting and gathering seed as well. I have always gathered foxglove seeds and spread them around without any ill effects. Digitalis can affect heart rate and is used as a legitimate drug for treating heart disease. So long as you’re not planning on eating the seeds or any part of the plant you will be perfectly fine. My other favourite seeds to collect in our garden is nigella. We sow some but keep the rest for pressing into home made naan bread.

    Lovely post, thanks!